Asphalt vs. Pavement: Understanding the Differences

If you’ve ever wondered what is the difference between asphalt and pavement when driving down the street, you are not alone in your curiosity. Understanding the differences between these materials is essential because what type of material is used can affect a driveway or roadway’s cost, strength, and longevity.

This blog post will cover what makes asphalt and pavement, what sets them apart, and more so that you have all the information required to make an informed decision. So jump into this topic to uncover what it means to choose asphalt versus pavement.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a material created with Bitumen, a dark-colored liquid substance found beneath the earth’s surface. This material has been around for thousands of years and was even used by ancient civilizations for waterproofing. Today, people use asphalt in creating pavements and other surfaces like roads, airports, highways, and racetracks due to its long-lasting properties and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions. To make asphalt, Bitumen is heated until it becomes malleable and can be mixed with other components at specific rates to form hot mix asphalt. 

The properties of asphalt

  • High viscosity
  • Impermeability to water
  • Elasticity and flexibility
  • Good adhesion to aggregates and other surfaces
  • Resistance to deformation under load and high temperatures
  • Excellent weathering resistance
  • High skid resistance
  • Durability and longevity

Benefits and drawbacks of asphalt

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using asphalt:

Benefits of asphalt:

  1. Durability: Asphalt is a durable material that withstands heavy traffic and harsh weather conditions.
  2. Safety: Asphalt is skid-resistant, providing better vehicle traction and reducing the risk of accidents.
  3. Cost-effective: Asphalt is less expensive than other paving materials, such as concrete, making it a cost-effective option for large areas.
  4. Recyclable: Used asphalt can be recycled and reused, reducing the need for new materials and promoting sustainability.

Drawbacks of asphalt:

  1. Maintenance: Asphalt requires regular maintenance, such as sealing and crack filling, to prevent damage and extend its lifespan.
  2. Temperature sensitivity: Asphalt can soften and deform in extreme heat, causing ruts and bumps in the surface.
  3. Environmental impact: The production and transportation of asphalt can hurt the environment, including air and water pollution.
  4. Lifespan: While asphalt is durable, it has a shorter lifespan than other paving materials, such as concrete, and may need to be repaved more frequently.

What is Pavement?

Pavement is a hard surface made from various materials, such as asphalt or concrete, used for paths and roadways. It has been around since ancient times—the Romans were some of the earliest pioneers of what we now know, classified as pavement. Today most pavement is made from asphalt, consisting of gravel and a binding agent. Pavement generally refers to what you see in sidewalks or municipalities with pre-laid material already integrated into its design.

The properties of pavement

  • Load-bearing capacity
  • Skid resistance
  • Surface texture
  • Ride quality
  • Noise level
  • Drainage characteristics
  • Durability
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Construction cost
  • Aesthetics

Benefits and drawbacks of pavement

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of using pavement:

Benefits of Pavement

  1. Enhanced Safety: Pavement provides a safer driving surface than dirt roads, especially during bad weather conditions.
  2. Low Maintenance: Pavements generally require less maintenance than other types of roads. This is because they don’t have problems like potholes or ruts caused by erosion.
  3. Better Accessibility: Pavement makes travel more accessible as it’s easier to drive on, and it can also provide increased accessibility for pedestrians or disabled individuals.
  4. Saves Time and Fuel: Pavement allows vehicles to travel much more smoothly and faster, reducing travel time and fuel consumption.
  5. Aesthetic Appeal: A well-maintained pavement can enhance the aesthetic appeal of any neighborhood. It can also help in increasing property values and business revenue.

Drawbacks of Pavement

  1. Expensive: Pavement can be costly, especially in remote areas or areas with rugged terrain.
  2. Environmental Impact: Pavement can have significant ecological impacts, including increased runoff and soil erosion, loss of natural vegetation, and changes to local streams and rivers.
  3. Heat Island Effect: Pavement can cause urban heat islands, where surface temperatures can be significantly higher than those surrounding rural areas.
  4. Limited Drainage: Pavement can limit drainage, leading to increased flooding and water quality issues.

Key Differences between Asphalt and Pavement

Asphalt and pavement are widely-used materials for constructing roads, driveways, and other outdoor surfaces. While they may seem interchangeable, these two materials have key differences that affect their performance and durability over time. 

Definition and Composition

Asphalt is commonly used for road construction because it is solid and flexible enough to absorb the shock from vehicles passing over it. It is also waterproof. In its composition, asphalt consists primarily of Bitumen combined with various types of aggregate, such as sand or gravel. Pavement, conversely, is a type of concrete that contains aggregates, cement, and water. Depending on the location and usage of the pavement, different chemical admixtures may be added to make it more durable.

Installation and Maintenance

When it comes to key differences between asphalt and pavement, one of the core factors is installation and maintenance. Asphalt is generally much cheaper to install than pavement because it requires fewer components. Pavement still produces an attractive finished product, but its often more expensive materials necessitate higher costs for installation and repair. Furthermore, asphalt has less maintenance than pavement.

Cost and Lifespan

Asphalt is more affordable due to its faster installation process than pavement. However, when it comes to the lifespan of either, pavement wins out since it can last for up to 30 years if properly maintained. 

Appearance and Function

Asphalt is a dark-colored, gritty material that is often used for driveways and parking lots. Pavement, on the other hand, can be brightly colored with distinctive patterns and designs. In addition, asphalt is generally thicker than pavement and contains gravel particles that aid drainage and traction. Functionally speaking, due to its flexibility and resilience, asphalt works excellent for surfaces that will see a heavy load – like main roads or trucking lanes. In contrast, pavement is best suited for sidewalks or pathways. 

Climate Considerations

Asphalt is much more heat-resistant, making it ideal for hotter climates, where pavement may expand and contract from extreme temperatures. In addition, pavement is freeze/thaw resistant, which makes it optimal for colder regions, as expansion or contraction won’t damage the material when exposed to freezing temperatures. 


What is the difference between asphalt and blacktop?

  • Blacktop is a mix of stones, sand, and gravel topped with asphalt. Blacktop is designed to create an even surface due to its increased resistance to weathering and ability to bear heavier loads.

What is the difference between pavement and concrete?

  • Pavement can be made of either asphalt or concrete, with asphalt being smoother and more resilient due to its binder, while concrete hardens through the curing process but tends to wear down over time due to weathering.

Which is better, asphalt or pavement?

  • Asphalt is smoother and more flexible than pavement, making it the preferred highway choice. It is also more lightweight and cost-effective.

How do I maintain my asphalt driveway?

  • The most important part of maintaining an asphalt driveway is making sure it’s properly sealed. This protects the surface of your driveway from harsh weather, salt, and other corrosive materials. You should reseal the surface every two or three years for optimal protection. 

How do I maintain my pavement driveway?

  • Look for any cracks or debris accumulating on the pavement surface. These should be removed and filled out as soon as possible. Regularly sweep away any loose stones, dirt, or foliage to prevent further damage from occurring.


Asphalt and pavement are standard fixtures on roadways everywhere. Despite their similarities, these two materials have some essential differences that make each suitable for different circumstances. Both asphalt and pavement have advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before deciding which surface works best for a particular project or location. Understanding these differences can help ensure a suitable decision is made when selecting a surface solution. You can read more articles like this one here.

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